Promoting Democratic Governance

On 7/30/2010 9:45 AM, Christian Volney wrote:

For the past several decades the conventional and, until recently, the predominant perspective on development in the international donor community has been that countries are poor because they lack resources,infrastructure, education, and opportunity. By this logic, if rich countries and international institutions could only transfer enough resources and technology, improve human capacity enough, and support health and education enough, development would occur. To be sure, greater public resources, better physical infrastructure, and stronger public health and education are essential for development. But they are not enough, and they are not the most crucial factor. No amount of resources transferred or infrastructure built can compensate for or survive bad governance. Predatory, corrupt, wasteful, abusive, tyrannical, incompetent governance is the bane of development. Where governance is endemically bad, rulers do not use public resources effectively to generate public goods and thus improve the productivity and well-being of their society. Instead, they appropriate these goods for themselves, their families, their parties, and their cronies. Unless we improve governance, we cannot foster development.

Democracy as reflected in free, fair, and competitive elections is not strictly necessary for good governance. And it is quite possible to have bad governance under the formal structures of democracy. But when competitive elections are truly free and fair, they do provide an instrument for removing bad, corrupt, or merely ineffectual leaders. They thus provide an incentive for political leaders to govern more effectively in the public interest. Many in and out of Dominica have been strongly advocating such is the case with the current administration, yet they have been elected by the electorate with an overwhelming mandate in overseeing Dominica’s future for the next 4 years.

Are we (as a developing nation) as a civic crossroads, politically?
The importance of civic responsibility is paramount to the success of democracy and philanthropy. By engaging in civic responsibility, citizens ensure and uphold certain democratic values written in Constitution. Those values or duties include justice, freedom, equality, diversity, authority, privacy, due process, property, participation, truth, patriotism, human rights, rule of law, tolerance, mutual assistance, self restraint and self respect. Schools teach civic responsibility to students with the goal to produce responsible citizens and active participants in community and government.
Has this generation of voters lost sight of this importance and the responsibility that comes with it? If we are to believe all that is written of late regarding the Skeritt lead administration, one could easily surmise we are not a civil minded society.

Democracy gives citizens nonelectoral means associations, movements, the media to monitor the conduct of public officials and participate in policymaking. And leaders in a democracy have more incentives (and more institutional means and obligations) to explain and justify their decisions and to consult a broad range of constituencies before making decisions. Such participation and debate give the public a stronger sense of policy ownership. As a result policies are more sustainable, and government is more legitimate. Yet, with this being said, the claims by forums (such as the citizens forum) paint a bleak and devastating picture of an undemocratic state in the making.
Under most circumstances any normal logical civil minded ‘thinking’ citizen (like myself) would be inclined to be wary and concerned that our government is leading us down a path of destruction and towards a totalitarian state.

These are some of the reasons that promoting democracy and good governance is so profoundly in the national interest of the United States and any other democratic state, Dominica included. Democracy and good governance are mutually reinforcing: when they develop together, resources are used to advance the public good. Public institutions perform their designated roles. Social consensus supports and stabilizes the system of government. Disputes are settled peacefully. And investment flows in, attracted by the low transaction costs associated with government transparency and legitimacy and the rule of law. In these circumstances economies grow, human welfare improves, trade expands, political stability and capacity deepen, and countries become more responsible and resourceful members of the international community.

There can also be great benefits for the environment. Where the institutions of governance are strong, access to land, water, and forests is controlled, and private property rights are enforced. The management of natural assets also is much more effective.

By contrast, when governance is bad and undemocratic or only superficially democratic development pathologies inevitably have regional and global consequences. Poverty becomes entrenched through corruption and distorted, wasteful investment. Chronic fiscal deficits drain and then drive away international resources. The absence of the rule of law permits and poverty can drive wanton destruction of the environment. In the absence of state capacity and will to address public health problems, infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and new viruses proliferate, mutate, and spread across borders. The blatant venality and injustice of repressive regimes foster antimodernist and religious fundamentalist movements of rage against the West, especially the United States. In the fertile soil of a weak state and feckless legal system, organized crime networks take root, threatening the rule of law internationally through fraud, piracy, kidnapping, terrorism, counterfeiting, money laundering, and trafficking in arms, drugs, and people.

I agree these arguments are ‘stressed’ within the realms of extremities, yet the counter-argument that these indicators are beginning to surface in our beloved should not be overlooked and must be addressed is ‘indeed’ cause for concern.   

The more inept, lawless, corrupt, and predatory governance is (or is perceived to be), the more likely it is to descend into the violent conflict and state failure that intensify all these factors and produce humanitarian crises and destruction of civil conscious communities. The potential for such crises destabilize regions and cry out for risky and costly international intervention. It is much safer and cheaper to build a well-governed, democratic state than to rescue a failed one. Indeed, the only way to prevent or reverse the threats that flow from bad governance is to foster stable, effective democratic governance. Promoting democratic governance is therefore vital to security and economic sustainability in Dominica and must be a central objective of any development assistance program.

Advancing democratic governance is a huge challenge. Superficially, the global state of democracy appears encouraging. Over the past quarter century democracy has steadily expanded around the world and is now the predominant form of government. But swirling beneath this expansion has been a dangerous countertrend a growing disenchantment among citizens and Diaspora that increasingly view their political leaders as corrupt, self-serving, and unable to address their countries’ serious economic and social problems. Seems to me that developing countries (such as Dominica), the people are losing confidence not just in elected officials but in their democratic institutions.

The rising cynicism of disaffected populations (as is being witnessed in Dominica) has justification worthy of caution and mention. In many new democracies governance is simply inadequate to meet the challenges of economic and political development. And in the typical authoritarian regime (as other have claimed Dominica may be embarking upon) governance is even more corrupt, arbitrary, and exploitative. Unless governance becomes more open, lawful, accountable, and responsive and where formally democratic, more deeply so it will not deliver sustained development. Transforming governance will require more investment in democracy and governance assistance. It will also require a new, more comprehensive strategy to generate the most crucial ingredient and the one most often missing: the political will of leaders to risk difficult reforms.

In conclusion,
It is our civic duty as citizens, and as a concerned Diaspora, to ensure diligence in good governance is at the forefront of our agendas. It is also of an equal importance that this diligence is monitored and reported as an unbiased and non-political agenda if authenticity is to prevail.

2 Comments on "Promoting Democratic Governance"

  1. CAKAFETE.COM NEWS | August 14, 2010 at 2:02 AM | Reply

    Promoting Democratic Governance
    Michael Astaphan, wrote Hi Chris, The only democratic government ever to pass Integrity in Public Office legislation without any Right to Information and Whistle Blowing Protection Legislation is this DLP led administration in our beloved Dominica. On top of all that, it took them 5 years to effect the legislation.

    When a Government does that, all they have done is to expose their dishonest and corrupt identity to the World. I have told you so in so many way and yet still you talk about this in your conclusion  “It is also of an equal importance that this diligence is monitored and reported as an unbiased and non-political agenda if authenticity is to prevail”. The facts were steering us all in the face and yet some Dominicans participated and supported this corrupt regime financially and otherwise, others were on the radio and Internet (you in particular) promoting the monster regime and the rest knew the facts and sat silently and allowed the criminal regime to continue to represent them. Those Dominicans that exposed the truth were labelled as Political Opponents that would say anything to oppose the leadership of the DLP with propaganda. The facts are the facts. Tell me, are we serious about a MOU with China? Is it a MOU with a China we know??? Which China?? The Red Army China ??? or The Corporate China??? or The Chinese Mafia China???? Which one did we sign the MOU with?? We do not know yet we support this nonsense and talk about non-political agenda!!! We need to be honest with ourselves because unless we are, we will forever be pontificate on having to be unbiased not realizing that there is nothing more bias than not being honest with the facts and ourselves. We are all responsible in one way or another for Dominica as it is today and we must take the responsibility to address the deteriorating situation our children’s sake. God Bless

  2. CAKAFETE Family | August 18, 2010 at 1:22 PM | Reply

    RE: Promoting Democratic Governance
    On 8/17/2010 5:34 PM, Christian Volney wrote: Michael, commended for implementing a social program that benefits all Dominicans. Why would you associate ‘the plundering of the treasury’ with that comment. I did not then, nor do I now support the fact the Act was not retroactive to 2003!The fact remains, they secured the funding that initiated a social program which benefits ‘all Dominicans’! How can you take that away from them? Is it right that they called it the ‘Red Clinic’ and capitalized on it with the electorate during the campaign?

    I think not, nevertheless it was not illegal, and had the tables been turned, you and or any other political party would have done the same. Crying foul is not a justifiable means or the reasons for your party, or the UWP losing the election! That was self induced by the lack of ‘alternative’ offered to the electorate!  Citizen Forum, why do you feel the need to demonize my ‘questioning’ of the facts surrounding the allegations of corruption? If the media and the opposition forces did not embark upon a campaign of ‘prostituting’ the truth, independent thinkers )such as myself) would have been more susceptible in believing it to be truthful!I have never stated corruption does not exist with this government; I have never denied that ‘a stench’ does not exist with the Bins, Fertilizer, and or all the other ‘questionable’ assertions levied against this government! I have however maintained with ‘consistency’ in my postings, that the facts (as reported by the media and the various opposition pundits) were ‘negligible in intent’ and distorted in truth. Pandora’s box was opened by those of you who have still not learnt to report the facts in their entirety, truthfully and without the added ‘political manipulations of the truth’. I ‘honestly believed’ it would have been in the best interest of this government and our country (for the sake of democratic self preservation), that a public inquiry into these ‘assertions’ should have been initiated by the chairman of the commission; a reluctance of which continues to reinforce my convictions that the ‘so called evidence’ is either, (a) non existent, or (b) cannot be substantiated legally in a court of law? Why should I be ‘branded’ for questioning the authenticity and or the political motives of the allegations? Is this government corrupt? I do not know, nor do I have the answer to that question, and certainly will not accept the words or suggestions of’, by politically charged, or agenda motivated individuals as being the ‘et al’, because they say so; remember, I hold a healthy skepticism of all politicians and will not subscribe to their devious intents; For the record; I do not have any political aspirations, nor am I planting the seeds for some future political endeavor in Dominica or Canada. As to your being suggestive that by ‘not being on the ground in Dominica’ I am not qualified in opinion, pretty much summarizes my continued resolve in questioning everyone’s motives and intentions! I am not a member of the Labour Party or any other political organization in Dominica; I have no gain or benefit that has been promised or bestowed upon me. My opinion is based on the proof!Cheers

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